Speech by The Hon. Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN at the Press Briefing on the Partial Closure for Repairs and Restoration of the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, Held at the Conference Room of the Ministry of Works and Housing, Mabushi, Abuja on Tuesday 2ist July 2020.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Minister of State, our Permanent Secretary, Directors and the entire body of staff of the Ministry of Works and Housing, I welcome you and thank you for attending this Briefing.
Although this briefing is about the imminent partial closure of the Third Mainland Bridge which I will hereafter refer to as the “Third Bridge,” it is important to provide some context and background which I think will help members of the public better understand why this is being done now, and why the discomfort, inconvenience and sacrifice we all have to endure and make is now so necessary.
I assure you with every sense of duty and responsibility that safety and our ultimate common convenience underpin this decision, and if there was another way, we would have taken it.
The Bridge is 11.8Km, we are closing 3.5Km so it is a partial and not a total closure.
As you all probably recollect, the Third Bridge, the Lagos Axial road as was known , when it was conceived in the 1970s, with the reclamation of the Lagos Lagoon to outer Marina , making the Third Bridge , was a back way intended to go round Lagos and connect major parts like Marina , Obalende, Simpson , Adeniji-Adele, Adekunle-Yaba, Gbagada to Ojota without being stuck in traffic that was being experienced in these locations as the population of Lagos began to grow in the 1970s.
Although started in the 1970s, the Bridge was not finally completed until the early 1990s.
Since then, some repair works have been undertaken in 2008 and 2012.
Infrastructure Asset Maintenance was until recently not a focal area of our national policy.
So the maintenance need of the Third Bridge and other Bridges nationwide was inherited by the Buhari Administration from the past, and not our creation.
In my first tour of duty as Minister of Works between 2015 and 2019, the Ministry undertook an assessment of ALL Bridges nationwide to determine their condition and the urgency of need for Repairs and Maintenance.
We presented a Report during the Budget hearings indicating the need for an estimated N277 Billion over a 4 (four) year period to enable us undertake the critical maintenance works that was required.
We certainly did not get all the provisions in the Budget that we wanted, but with what we got we have undertaken some repairs, reconstruction and maintenance works on 37 ( Thirty Seven) Bridges nationwide.
Lagos, because of her status as former Capital and coastal and aquatic location and character, has by far the largest number of Bridges.
So some of the Bridges we have worked on in Lagos are Dorman Long Bridge, Ojuelegba Bridge, Independence Bridge and Falomo Bridge.
Work is still going on on the Marine Beach linking to Apapa , and we will be undertaking repair works on the Eko Bridge and Obalende Bridge recently damaged by fire from a petrol Tanker.
Other Bridges are Tatabu in Niger; Tamburawa Bridge in Kano; Old River Niger Bridge linking Onitsha and Asaba; Isaac Boro Bridge in Port Harcourt; Ethiope Bridge linking Benin-Sapele ; Katsina-Ala Bridge in Benue; Ajaokuta Bridge in Kogi ; Murtala Mohammed Bridge in Koton Karfe, Kogi State to mention a few.
Believe it or not, some of these repair works were visible to some of us because we saw them, while others took place underneath, involving repair of piles, replacement of bearings and other work underneath the Bridge while we drove along without noticing.
The Third Bridge, which we now intend to close partially, is one of those Bridges.
You will recall that we closed the Bridge for short periods in 2018 and 2019.
This was to undertake further inspection and confirm that there was no further significant deterioration since the inspection that took place in 2013.
We are now ready to execute the work confirmed by the inspection that took place in 2019.
This work will start on Friday, 24 July 2020 at midnight and end on Sunday, 24 January 2021 .
As we have been told by the Director of Bridges, Engineer Emmanuel Adeoye, the scope of works will involve :-
Restoration of different types of damaged piles dozens of them, cleaning of the Rust found on them, and removing the marine and organic materials on them , and jacketing the piles of with rings of concrete, sealing of cracks and coating with epoxy resin to prolong their life.
Repair work will also be undertaken on the Bridge deck which will be more visible to us commuters, entailing lifting of the Bridge decks measuring 135 meters each to check for structural damage to deck supports and repair them, to re-align any displacements by bracing and pinning; and to replace bearings, joints etc.
We will also be testing, removing damaged joints and replacing them numbering 14 identified.
We have heard from Engr. Adedamola Kuti, the immediate past Controller of Lagos and now Director Highways, South West Zone who is being seconded back to Lagos to strengthen the Team led by the new Controller of Works , Engr. Olukayode Popoola, where the Bridge will be closed between Adeniji Adele and Adekunle interchanges necessitating diversions to Carter, Iddo and Ijora, and the need to use alternative routes like Costain, Ebute Metta and Ijora.
You have also heard from FERMA our roads maintenance Agency led by Engr. Nuruddeen Rafindadi, about their plans to deploy men, material and machine to urgently repair and restore the alternative routes.
And of course, the Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Dr Boboye Oyeyemi has briefed you about the readiness of his men and women, 250 of them , with their patrol vehicles , Tow Trucks and Bikes to work with the Lagos Traffic Corps, the LASTMA to manage traffic while we commute.
I have directed our Team to liaise with Lagos Traffic Radio particularly, and other media houses to share and manage information to address the concerns of commuters .
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Third Bridge is the busiest highway in Nigeria ; our last Traffic count in 2019 showed an average daily traffic of 132, 702 light and heavy vehicles.
This is more than double the traffic on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
This unavoidable partial closure requires careful planning. From what I have shared with you, we have planned for the worst, we can only hope the best.
The best will happen if we all show understanding, restraint and patience, because we will have a better and safer bridge in a short while to come.
This work is being undertaken by our commitment to refurbish old infrastructure , while building new ones, and also in response to calls by well meaning members of the public who have from time to time sent out pictures and videos expressing concern about this and other Bridges.
Your Government hears you and this is the response.
Your collaboration is now the most important ingredient, required to make this work.
I would like to conclude by saying that my Team and I, are not unaware of the several questions that the decision to effect the repairs on the Bridge at this point in time have thrown up: Why should the repairs be carried around this period when there is a major festival around the corner ? What has necessitated the long duration? Why can’t the repairs be carried out in the night when traffic is very light ? Some of the Bridges that should serve as alternative routes are also under repairs, is government unaware? And so on.
Let me assure you all that our Team has taken into consideration all of these issues and even more. The safety of the teeming populace who commute on the Bridge daily have been the single most important consideration for undertaking the repairs now.
Reminder: The road, the bridge is a shared asset. If you don’t have to be on it you make it easier for those who need it to access it and use. So think about that journey and if it is not necessary please don’t make it at this time. This way, you will be helping us and you will be helping other commuters to have a more pleasant experience while we work.
Let me conclude by thanking Governor Babajide Sanwoolu and his works team and President Muhammadu Buhari who I have personally briefed about this exercise and who have given their support because of its impact and importance.
Thank you very much for attention.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Works and Housing